Though I don't post about it much here, I'm a huge music junkie and have quite a past with the music industry so you'd think I would write about it more! Anyway, last night I got to thinking about how there aren't many male vocalists out there that just make me melt. I can think of over a dozen female singers (Maria Taylor, Allison Krauss, Lisa Hannigan, Patsy Cline, A Fine Frenzy's Alison Sodul, etc.) with stunning vocals that never ever get old, but only a handful of dudes. My top five male vocalists to make you melt (in no particular order): 1. Tony Dekker, Great Lake Swimmers 2. Andrew Bird 3. Matt Pond, Matt Pond PA 4. Pete Yorn 5. Ryan Adams
Tone, intensity, enunciation, and pitch are the big factors for me. And looks have nothing to do with their "melt factor," just so you know. In fact, I have this idiosyncrasy where if I hear an artist and don't already know what they look like, I paint a picture in my head using only their voice to construct a physical hypothesis of their appearance. In some cases, I avoid looking at anything that would reveal what they actually look like because I don't want my theory shattered. This happened for a LONG time with Great Lake Swimmers. I got really into them towards the end of college and I never found out what the lead singer, Tony Dekker, looked like until years down the line. This of course was only possible because I never was able to see them live and their albums never had photos of them. Once they started releasing music videos, I was shocked to find that he was a spitting image of what I'd imagined him to be: waify and bearded.
And then there are the artists that I hear and have NO clue what to think - I literally can't decide what they should look like from their voice alone. Andrew Bird and Matt Pond were both like this for me. And for the record, if you ever get the chance to see either of these dudes live, DO IT. He generally plays sans shoes but sports some sweet striped or herringbone socks.
Last but not least, there are the guys that you know what they look like from day one...like Pete Yorn. Oh my God. My one and only experience with Pete Yorn was when I was interning back in the day (2002-ish) at Sony Music in NYC with Columbia Records specifically, when he walked onto my elevator. We were alone for over a minute and I about lost my shit (I also think I may have spilled coffee on myself). But, I digress. His voice is about as close to perfection as it gets for me. And he's been rocking a killer beard lately. And there's totally a past America's Next Top Model contestant in his video for "Don't Wanna Cry." ALSO, many think (myself included) that he made a mistake by releasing a pretty rough album (her fault, trust me!) with Scarlett Johansson called Break Up...except for a single track on it, which I'll hastily admit is fantastic...
Ryan Adams was also one of these. I remember the first time I ever saw him - I picked up Heartbreaker during the first semester of my freshman year of college at a local used vinyl store, and he's been a favorite ever since. Between his solo stuff, Whiskeytown, and The Cardinals, he's made a massive amount of eclectic music and I've enjoyed every single record. Also, he sings one of my favorite covers of all time though I couldn't find a suitable video of it on YouTube...check out "Wonderwall" on his Love is Hell album.
Just in case you're wondering, my bottom two for male vocalists who I wish would (in the wise words of Rex Manning) "fade away"? Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. Why, you ask? Both of them are particularly NASAL, and overly dramatic about it. Which, for me, is almost painful to listen to. It's a shame since both happen to be pretty stellar song writers.